Thursday, 18 June 2009

2009 NBA Draft Preview: Power Forwards

This article can also be found here.

When looking at the power forward class of the 2009 NBA Draft, the conversation obviously begins with Blake Griffin from Oklahoma. He considered entering the draft after his freshman season (where he could have been a lottery pick), but decided to come back for one more year at Oklahoma to refine his game. It turned out to be a great decision. He absolutely dominated the college ranks as a sophomore, winning national player of the year awards and looking like a man among boys, and enters the draft as the undisputed #1 pick, the lone sure thing in a weak draft.

The numbers he put up were eye-popping. He averaged 22.7 PPG, lead the NCAA in rebounding at 14.4 RPG. Just for good measure, he also averaged over 2 APG, and one steal and block per game. He did this while shooting a staggering 65% from the field. But it wasn't even just the numbers, it was the way he did it. Physically, he was no match for anyone in the college game, meaning he should be ready to play right away. He can finish with either hand by the basket, and shows refined post moves. He outmuscles opponents for rebounding, and can get great position at any time. He knows how to use his body down low very well, and is very crafty in the post. His athletic ability is excellent for a big man, and he has a good handle on the ball. He needs to show more assertiveness and focus on the defensive side of the basketball, but that is just a small qualm. He will be the first pick in the draft, and he looks very ready to make an immediate impact in the NBA.

The next power forward off the board will be Jordan Hill from Arizona, who looks like he will potentially go in the top 5. He is a very high energy guy, and his game most looks like a more highly skilled Anderson Varajeo. He was one of the most improved players in college basketball this year. He has turned into a decent scorer down low. Mostly though, he is a very high energy rebounder and defensive player. He will do all of the little things necessary to win. If he can continue to develop his offensive game, he will be a very good NBA player. At worst, he should be a very good rotation player.

After that, there are a few different guys that could go off the board. One is Dejuan Blair from Pittsburgh. He is undersized at 6'7'', and there are some physical concerns about him, but he has lots of positives. Most chiefly, he is a great rebounder. He is very strong, and knows how to work his way into position. He is especially adept at grabbing offensive rebounds. He is a crafty low post scorer, and showed against Hasheem Thabeet that he can score even against players much bigger than him. He is one of the toughest players in the draft, and that should help him in his transition to the faster, stronger NBA game.

Then there is Tyler Hansbrough. Of course, he had a very distinguished collegiate career, with all sorts of awards, records, and a national title. Unfortunately, none of that means anything anymore. He is probably the hardest worker in the draft, but will his lack of elite athleticism hurt him? He can score in a variety of ways, and you know that he will work harder than anyone else at improving his weaknesses, but how high is his ceiling? That is the question teams will be asking. Finally there is James Johnson from Wake Forest, a guy who could go at high as in the late lottery. He has a lot of potential and talent, but he doesn't always have the consistency to go along with it.

So when looking at the power forwards in this year's draft, Blake Griffin is obviously the guy that stands out. He is the consensus #1 pick in the draft and the most sure thing in the draft. After him, there are a couple potential lottery picks, but nobody else that will have near the impact of Griffin. It will be interesting to see how things shake out!